Ante-nicene fathers



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Now what do you suppose this to be a type of, that a command was given to Israel, that men of the greatest wickedness98 should offer a heifer, and slay and burn it, and, that then boys should take the ashes, and put these into vessels, and bind round a stick99 purple wool along with hyssop, and that thus the boys should sprinkle the people, one by one, in order that they might be purified from their sins? Consider how He speaks to you with simplicity. The calf100 is Jesus: the sinful men offering it are those who led Him to the slaughter. But now the men are no longer guilty, are no longer regarded as sinners.101 And the boys that sprinkle are those that have proclaimed to us the remission of sins and purification of heart. To these He gave authority to preach the Gospel, being twelve in number, corresponding to the twelve tribes102 of Israel. But why are there three boys that sprinkle? To correspond103 to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, because these were great with God. And why was the wool [placed] upon the wood? Because by wood Jesus holds His kingdom, so that [through the cross] those believing on Him shall live for ever. But why was hyssop joined with the wool? Because in His kingdom the days will be evil and polluted in which we shall be saved, [and] because he who suffers in body is cured through the cleansing104 efficacy of hyssop. And on this account the things which stand thus are clear to us, but obscure to them because they did not hear the voice of the Lord.

Chapter IX.—The Spiritual Meaning of Circumcision.

He speaks moreover concerning our ears, how He hath circumcised both them and our heart. The Lord saith in the prophet, “In the hearing of the ear they obeyed me.”105 And again He saith, “By hearing, those shall hear who are afar off; they shall know what I have done.”106 And, “Be ye circumcised in your hearts, saith the Lord.”107 And again He says, “Hear, O Israel, for these things saith the Lord thy God.”108 And once more the Spirit of the Lord proclaims, “Who is he that wishes to live for ever? By hearing let him hear the voice of my servant.”109 And again He saith, “Hear, O heaven, and give ear, O earth, for God110 hath spoken.”111 These are in proof.112 And again He saith, “Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of this people.”113 And again He saith, “Hear, ye children, the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”114 Therefore He hath circumcised our ears, that we might hear His word and believe, for the circumcision in which they trusted is abolished.115 For He declared that circumcision was not of the flesh, but they transgressed because an evil angel deluded them.116 He saith to them, “These things saith the Lord your God”—(here117 I find a new118 commandment)—“Sow not among thorns, but circumcise yourselves to the Lord.”119 And why speaks He thus: “Circumcise the stubbornness of your heart, and harden not your neck? ”120 And again: “Behold, saith the Lord, all the nations are uncircumcised121 in the flesh, but this people are uncircumcised in heart.”122 But thou wilt say, “Yea, verily the people are circumcised for a seal.” But so also is every Syrian and Arab, and all the priests of idols: are these then also within the bond of His covenant?123 Yea, the Egyptians also practise circumcision. Learn then, my children, concerning all things richly,124 that Abraham, the first who enjoined circumcision, looking forward in spirit to Jesus, practised that rite, having received the mysteries125 of the three letters. For [the Scripture] saith, “And Abraham circumcised ten, and eight, and three hundred men of his household.”126 What, then, was the knowledge given to him in this? Learn the eighteen first, and then the three hundred.127 The ten and the eight are thus denoted—Ten by I, and Eight by H.128 You have [the initials of the, name of] Jesus. And because129 the cross was to express the grace [of our redemption] by the letter T, he says also, “Three Hundred.” He signifies, therefore, Jesus by two letters, and the cross by one. He knows this, who has put within us the engrafted130 gift of His doctrine. No one has been admitted by me to a more excellent piece of knowledge131 than this, but I know that ye are worthy.

Chapter X.—Spiritual Significance of the Precepts of Moses Respecting Different Kinds of Food.



Now, wherefore did Moses say, “Thou shalt not eat the swine, nor the eagle, nor the hawk, nor the raven, nor any fish which is not possessed of scales? ”132 He embraced three doctrines in his mind [in doing so]. Moreover, the Lord saith to them in Deuteronomy, “And I will establish my ordinances among this people.”133 Is there then not a command of God they should not eat [these things]? There is, but Moses spoke with a spiritual reference.134 For this reason he named the swine, as much as to say, “Thou shalt not join thyself to men who resemble swine.” For when they live in pleasure, they forget their Lord; but when they come to want, they acknowledge the Lord. And [in like manner] the swine, when it has eaten, does not recognize its master; but when hungry it cries out, and on receiving food is quiet again. “Neither shalt thou eat,” says he “the eagle, nor the hawk, nor the kite, nor the raven.” “Thou shalt not join thyself,” he means, “to such men as know not how to procure food for themselves by labour and sweat, but seize on that of others in their iniquity, and although wearing an aspect of simplicity, are on the watch to plunder others.”135 So these birds, while they sit idle, inquire how they may devour the flesh of others, proving themselves pests [to all] by their wickedness. “And thou shalt not eat,” he says, “the lamprey, or the polypus, or the cuttlefish.” He means, “Thou shalt not join thyself or be like to such men as are ungodly to the end, and are condemned136 to death.” In like manner as those fishes, above accursed, float in the deep, not swimming [on the surface] like the rest, but make their abode in the mud which lies at the bottom. Moreover, “Thou shall not,” he says, “eat the hare.” Wherefore? “Thou shall not be a corrupter of boys, nor like unto such.”137 Because the hare multiplies, year by year, the places of its conception; for as many years as it lives so many138 it has. Moreover, “Thou shall not eat the hyena.” He means, “Thou shall not be an adulterer, nor a corrupter, nor be like to them that are such.” Wherefore? Because that animal annually changes its sex, and is at one time male, and at another female. Moreover, he has rightly detested the weasel. For he means, “Thou shalt not be like to those whom we hear of as committing wickedness with the mouth,139 on account of their uncleanness; nor shall thou be joined to those impure women who commit iniquity with the mouth. For this animal conceives by the mouth.” Moses then issued140 three doctrines concerning meats with a spiritual significance; but they received them according to fleshly desire, as if he had merely spoken of [literal] meats. David, however, comprehends the knowledge of the three doctrines, and speaks in like manner: “Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly,”141 even as the fishes [referred to] go in darkness to the depths [of the sea]; “and hath not stood in the way of sinners,” even as those who profess to fear the Lord, but go astray like swine; “and hath not sat in the seat of scorners,”142 even as those birds that lie in wait for prey. Take a full and firm grasp of this spiritual143 knowledge. But Moses says still further, “Ye shall eat every animal that is cloven-footed and ruminant.” What does he mean? [The ruminant animal denotes him] who, on receiving food, recognizes Him that nourishes him, and being satisfied by Him,144 is visibly made glad. Well spake [Moses], having respect to the commandment. What, then, does he mean? That we ought to join ourselves to those that fear the Lord, those who meditate in their heart on the commandment which they have received, those who both utter the judgments of the Lord and observe them, those who know that meditation is a work of gladness, and who ruminate145 upon the word of the Lord. But what means the cloven-footed? That the righteous man also walks in this world, yet looks forward to the holy state146 [to come]. Behold how well Moses legislated. But how was it possible for them to understand or comprehend these things? We then, rightly understanding his commandments,147 explain them as the Lord intended. For this purpose He circumcised our ears and our hearts, that we might understand these things.

Chapter XI.—Baptism and the Cross Prefigured in the Old Testament.

Let us further inquire whether the Lord took any care to foreshadow the water [of baptism] and the cross. Concerning the water, indeed, it is written, in reference to the Israelites, that they should not receive that baptism which leads to the remission of sins, but should procure148 another for themselves. The prophet therefore declares, “Be astonished, O heaven, and let the earth tremble149 at this, because this people hath committed two great evils: they have forsaken Me, a living fountain, and have hewn out for themselves broken cisterns.150 Is my holy hill Zion a desolate rock? For ye shall be as the fledglings of a bird, which fly away when the nest is removed.”151 And again saith the prophet, “I will go before thee and make level the mountains, and will break the brazen gates, and bruise in pieces the iron bars; and I will give thee the secret,152 hidden, invisible treasures, that they may know that I am the Lord God.”153 And “He shall dwell in a lofty cave of the strong rock.”154 Furthermore, what saith He in reference to the Son? “His water is sure;155 ye shall see the King in His glory, and your soul shall meditate on the fear of the Lord.”156 And again He saith in another prophet, “The man who doeth these things shall be like a tree planted by the courses of waters, which shall yield its fruit in due season; and his leaf shall not fade, and all that he doeth shall prosper. Not so are the ungodly, not so, but even as chaff, which the wind sweeps away from the face of the earth. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in judgment, nor sinners in the counsel of the just; for the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”157 Mark how He has described at once both the water and the cross. For these words imply, Blessed are they who, placing their trust in the cross, have gone down into the water; for, says He, they shall receive their reward in due time: then He declares, I will recompense them. But now He saith,158 “Their leaves shall not fade.” This meaneth, that every word which proceedeth out of your mouth in faith and love shall tend to bring conversion and hope to many. Again, another prophet saith, “And the land of Jacob shall be extolled above every land.”159 This meaneth the vessel of His Spirit, which He shall glorify. Further, what says He? “And there was a river flowing on the right, and from it arose beautiful trees; and whosoever shall eat of them shall live for ever.”160 This meaneth,161 that we indeed descend into the water full of sins and defilement, but come up, bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear [of God] and trust in Jesus in our spirit. “And whosoever shall eat of these shall live for ever,” This meaneth: Whosoever, He declares, shall hear thee speaking, and believe, shall live for ever.

Chapter XII.—The Cross of Christ Frequently Announced in the Old Testament.



In like manner He points to the cross of Christ in another prophet, who saith,162 “And when shall these things be accomplished? And the Lord saith, When a tree shall be bent down, and again arise, and when blood shall flow out of wood.”163 Here again you have an intimation concerning the cross, and Him who should be crucified. Yet again He speaks of this164 in Moses, when Israel was attacked by strangers. And that He might remind them, when assailed, that it was on account of their sins they were delivered to death, the Spirit speaks to the heart of Moses, that he should make a figure of the cross,165 and of Him about to suffer thereon; for unless they put their trust in Him, they shall be overcome for ever. Moses therefore placed one weapon above another in the midst of the hill,166 and standing upon it, so as to be higher than all the people, he stretched forth his hands,167 and thus again Israel acquired the mastery. But when again he let down his hands, they were again destroyed. For what reason? That they might know that they could not be saved unless they put their trust in Him.168 And in another prophet He declares, “All day long I have stretched forth My hands to an unbelieving people, and one that gainsays My righteous way.”169 And again Moses makes a type of Jesus, [signifying] that it was necessary for Him to suffer, [and also] that He would be the author of life170 [to others], whom they believed to have destroyed on the cross171 when Israel was failing. For since transgression was committed by Eve through means of the serpent, [the Lord] brought it to pass that every [kind of] serpents bit them, and they died,172 that He might convince them, that on account of their transgression they were given over to the straits of death. Moreover Moses, when he commanded, “Ye shall not have any graven or molten [image] for your God,”173 did so that he might reveal a type of Jesus. Moses then makes a brazen serpent, and places it upon a beam,174 and by proclamation assembles the people. When, therefore, they were come together, they besought Moses that he would offer sacrifice175 in their behalf, and pray for their recovery. And Moses spake unto them, saying, “When any one of you is bitten, let him come to the serpent placed on the pole; and let him hope and believe, that even though dead, it is able to give him life, and immediately he shall be restored.”176 And they did so. Thou hast in this also [an indication of] the glory of Jesus; for in Him and to Him are all things.177 What, again, says Moses to Jesus (Joshua) the son of Nave, when he gave him178 this name, as being a prophet, with this view only, that all the people might hear that the Father would reveal all things concerning His Son Jesus to the son179 of Nave? This name then being given him when he sent him to spy out the land, he said, “Take a book into thy hands, and write what the Lord declares, that the Son of God will in the last days cut off from the roots all the house of Amalek.”180 Behold again: Jesus who was manifested, both by type and in the flesh,181 is not the Son of man, but the Son of God. Since, therefore, they were to say that Christ was the son182 of David, fearing and understanding the error of the wicked, he saith, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.”183 And again, thus saith Isaiah, “The Lord said to Christ,184 my Lord, whose right hand I have holden,185 that the nations should yield obedience before Him; and I will break in pieces the strength of kings.”186 Behold how David calleth Him Lord and the Son of God.

Chapter XIII.—Christians, and Not Jews, the Heirs of the Covenant.

But let us see if this people187 is the heir, or the former, and if the covenant belongs to us or to them. Hear ye now what the Scripture saith concerning the people. Isaac prayed for Rebecca his wife, because she was barren; and she conceived.188 Furthermore also, Rebecca went forth to inquire of the Lord; and the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples in thy belly; and the one people shall surpass the other, and the elder shall serve the younger.”189 You ought to understand who was Isaac, who Rebecca, and concerning what persons He declared that this people should be greater than that. And in another prophecy Jacob speaks more clearly to his son Joseph, saying, “Behold, the Lord hath not deprived me of thy presence; bring thy sons to me, that I may bless them.”190 And he brought Manasseh and Ephraim, desiring that Manasseh191 should be blessed, because he was the elder. With this view Joseph led him to the right hand of his father Jacob. But Jacob saw in spirit the type of the people to arise afterwards. And what says [the Scripture]? And Jacob changed the direction of his bands, and laid his fight hand upon the head of Ephraim, the second and younger, and blessed him. And Joseph said to Jacob, “Transfer thy right hand to the head of Manasseh,192 for he is my first-born son.”193 And Jacob said, “I know it, my son, I know it; but the elder shall serve the younger: yet he also shall be blessed.”194 Ye see on whom he laid195 [his hands], that this people should be first, and heir of the covenant. If then, still further, the same thing was intimated through Abraham, we reach the perfection of our knowledge. What, then, says He to Abraham? “Because thou hast believed,196 it is imputed to thee for righteousness: behold, I have made thee the father of those nations who believe in the Lord while in [a state of] uncircumcision.”197

Chapter XIV.—The Lord Hath Given Us the Testament Which Moses Received and Broke.

Yes [it is even so]; but let us inquire if the Lord has really given that testament which He swore to the fathers that He would give198 to the people. He did give it; but they were not worthy to receive it, on account of their sins. For the prophet declares, “And Moses was fasting forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai, that he might receive the testament of the Lord for the people.”199 And he received from the Lord200 two tables, written in the spirit by the finger of the hand of the Lord. And Moses having received them, carried them down to give to the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Moses, Moses, go down quickly; for thy people hath sinned, whom thou didst bring out of the land of Egypt.”201 And Moses understood that they had again202 made molten images; and he threw the tables out of his hands, and the tables of the testament of the Lord were broken. Moses then received it, but they proved themselves unworthy. Learn now how we have received it. Moses, as a servant,203 received it; but the Lord himself, having suffered in our behalf, hath given it to us, that we should be the people of inheritance. But He was manifested, in order that they might be perfected in their iniquities, and that we, being constituted heirs through Him,204 might receive the testament of the Lord Jesus, who was prepared for this end, that by His personal manifestation, redeeming our hearts (which were already wasted by death, and given over to the iniquity of error) from darkness, He might by His word enter into a covenant with us. For it is written how the Father, about to redeem205 us from darkness, commanded Him to prepare206 a holy people for Himself. The prophet therefore declares, “I, the Lord Thy God, have called Thee in righteousness, and will hold Thy hand, and will strengthen Thee; and I have given Thee for a covenant to the people, for a light to the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, and to bring forth from fetters them that are bound, and those that sit in darkness out of the prison-house.”207 Ye perceive,208 then, whence we have been redeemed. And again, the prophet says, “Behold, I have appointed Thee as a light to the nations, that Thou mightest be for salvation even to the ends of the earth, saith the Lord God that redeemeth thee.”209 And again, the prophet saith, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the humble: He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim deliverance to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; to announce the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of recompense; to comfort all that mourn.”210

Chapter XV.—The False and the True Sabbath.

Further,211 also, it is written concerning the Sabbath in the Decalogue which [the Lord] spoke, face to face, to Moses on Mount Sinai, “And sanctify ye the Sabbath of the Lord with clean hands and a pure heart.”212 And He says in another place, “If my sons keep the Sabbath, then will I cause my mercy to rest upon them.”213 The Sabbath is mentioned at the beginning of the creation [thus]: “And God made in six days the works of His hands, and made an end on the seventh day, and rested on it, and sanctified it.”214 Attend, my children, to the meaning of this expression, “He finished in six days.” This implieth that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is215 with Him a thousand years. And He Himself testifieth,216 saying, “Behold, to-day217 will be as a thousand years.”218 Therefore, my children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be finished. “And He rested on the seventh day.” This meaneth: when His Son, coming [again], shall destroy the time of the wicked man,219 and judge the ungodly, and change the-sun, and the moon,220 and the stars, then shall He truly rest on the seventh day. Moreover, He says, “Thou shalt sanctify it with pure hands and a pure heart.” If, therefore, any one can now sanctify the day which God hath sanctified, except he is pure in heart in all things,221 we are deceived.222 Behold, therefore:223 certainly then one properly resting sanctifies it, when we ourselves, having received the promise, wickedness no longer existing, and all things having been made new by the Lord, shall be able to work righteousness.224 Then we shall be able to sanctify it, having been first sanctified ourselves.225 Further, He says to them, “Your new moons and your Sabbath I cannot endure.”226 Ye perceive how He speaks: Your present Sabbaths are not acceptable to Me, but that is which I have made, [namely this, ] when, giving rest to all things, I shall make a beginning of the eighth day, that is, a beginning of another world. Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead.227 And228 when He had manifested Himself, He ascended into the heavens.

Chapter XVI.—The Spiritual Temple of God.

Moreover, I will also tell you concerning the temple, how the wretched [Jews], wandering in error, trusted not in God Himself, but in the temple, as being the house of God. For almost after the manner of the Gentiles they worshipped Him in the temple.229 But learn how the Lord speaks, when abolishing it: “Who hath meted out heaven with a span, and the earth with his palm? Have not I? ”230 “Thus saith the Lord, Heaven is My throne, and the earth My footstool: what kind of house will ye build to Me, or what is the place of My rest? ”231 Ye perceive that their hope is vain. Moreover, He again says, “Behold, they who have cast down this temple, even they shall build it up again.”232 It has so happened.233 For through their going to war, it was destroyed by their enemies; and now: they, as the servants of their enemies, shall rebuild it. Again, it was revealed that the city and the temple and the people of Israel were to be given up. For the Scripture saith, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the Lord will deliver up the sheep of His pasture, and their sheep-fold and tower, to destruction.”234 And it so happened as the Lord had spoken. Let us inquire, then, if there still is a temple of God. There is—where He himself declared He would make and finish it. For it is written, “And it shall come to pass, when the week is completed, the temple of God shall be built in glory in the name of the Lord.”235 I find, therefore, that a temple does exist. Learn, then, how it shall be built in the name of the Lord. Before we believed in God, the habitation of our heart was corrupt and weak, as being indeed like a temple made with hands. For it was full of idolatry, and was a habitation of demons, through our doing such things as were opposed to [the will of] God. But it shall be built, observe ye, in the name of the Lord, in order that the temple of the Lord may be built in glory. How? Learn [as follows]. Having received the forgiveness of sins, and placed our trust in the name of the Lord, we have become new creatures, formed again from the beginning. Wherefore in our habitation God truly dwells in us. How? His word of faith; His calling236 of promise; the wisdom of the statutes; the commands of the doctrine; He himself prophesying in us; He himself dwelling in us; opening to us who were enslaved by death the doors of the temple, that is, the mouth; and by giving us repentance introduced us into the incorruptible temple.237 He then, who wishes to be saved, looks not to man,238 but to Him who dwelleth in him, and speaketh in him, amazed at never having either heard him utter such words with his mouth, nor himself having ever desired to hear them.239 This is the spiritual temple built for the Lord.




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